After writing a controversial op-ed titled “A Liberal’s Case for Brett Kavanaugh,” Yale Law School professor Akhil Amar said Tuesday he will speak in favor of the U.S. Supreme Court nominee before the Senate Judiciary Committee if asked to do so.
“I have followed his career with care,” Amar told The National Law Journal, adding that “it’s my job” to share the information and expertise he has about Kavanaugh, a onetime student of his at Yale. “Let my fellow citizens decide.” Amar is a prolific liberal scholar of the Constitution.
“The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court justice is President Trump’s finest hour, his classiest move,” Amar wrote for The New York Times in an op-ed posted online Monday night shortly after Trump revealed Kavanaugh’s nomination in a ceremony in the East Room.
Amar called Kavanaugh a “superb nominee” who deserved “ninetysomething” Senate votes because of his strong credentials and the fact that “he reads and learns” a wide range of views. Kavanaugh “commands wide and deep respect among scholars, lawyers and jurists,” Amar added.
Negative reaction to the column came quickly after it was posted, Amar said in an interview Tuesday. “I got a lot of hate mail. There’s a lot of anger out there.” On social media, some critics chalked up Amar’s enthusiasm toward Kavanaugh to the fact that Kavanaugh was one of his students, and Amar often recommends law clerks to justices.
Appearing Tuesday on Fox News, Amar said he’d received “a little bit more blowback from the left than I expected. But this is the beginning of the process, and I’d like us all to come together, actually, ideally. It’s still possible.”
Kavanaugh supporters were happy to tout Amar’s NYT column as evidence that Kavanaugh is respected by liberals and conservatives alike and should not be attacked by Democrats.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, issued an “In Case You Missed It” press email about Amar’s essay, adding that Amar “makes a compelling case for Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination.”
Grassley would likely be the senator to decide whether to invite Amar to testify. Two representatives from Grassley’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Amar defended his positive take on Kavanaugh. “To my liberal friends, I say look at the other folks on the list,” he said, referring to Trump’s publicized list of potential nominees.
Compared to them, Amar said, Kavanaugh was at the top, with a reputation for openness and fair-mindedness. In his essay, Amar said that Democratic senators should either vote for Kavanaugh or, if they vote against him, should come up with the names of two people a Republican president would nominate. “Not an easy task,” Amar wrote.
“For the same reason I supported Merrick Garland, I support Brett Kavanaugh,” Amar said. In a 2017 New York Times column, Amar said Neil Gorsuch by all accounts was a “brainy and principled jurist,” but needed to delve more deeply into constitutional issues. Amar described Gorsuch as “not a constitutional historian.”
Asked if he believes that Kavanaugh is the best candidate liberals can hope for, Amar said Kavanaugh deserved a better description. “Kavanaugh is a distinguished scholar of the Constitution,” Amar said.
But he also said, “If you don’t win presidential elections and Senate elections, and you’re losing in state after state, all these things have consequences” for Supreme Court nominations and constitutional issues.
Amar noted in his Fox appearance that Kavanaugh supported Merrick Garland’s nomination in 2016 to the Supreme Court “and don’t be surprised if Merrick Garland supports him.”
Kavanaugh in 2016 called Garland “supremely qualified” for the Supreme Court. But he did not urge the Senate to hold a confirmation vote for his colleague, whose elevation to the Supreme Court was blocked by Republicans.
A group of Yale law students on Tuesday, writing in an open letter to the school’s leadership, raised questions about Kavanaugh’s nomination. The students were responding to a Yale news release—Amar and other professors were quoted—that touted Kavanaugh’s accomplishments.
“Support for Judge Kavanaugh is not apolitical,” the law students wrote. “It is a political choice about the meaning of the constitution and our vision of democracy, a choice with real consequences for real people.”